Seattle City Attorney tightens filing deadline for incoming cases to address growing backlog

Feb 7, 2022, 8:22 AM | Updated: 1:27 pm
Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison, case backlog...
Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison. (KIRO 7 TV)

Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison announced a new policy Monday, which will change how her office prioritizes incoming cases referred by the Seattle Police Department.

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Shortly before taking office, Davison cited concerns over a backlog of 3,885 unfiled criminal cases dating back over two years, ranging from offenses like assault and domestic violence, to theft and property destruction. As outgoing City Attorney Pete Holmes’ office noted, that backlog was largely driven by pandemic-related policies that dramatically curtailed jury trials for 15 months.

Just over a month into her first term, Davison says her office’s backlog has now ballooned to roughly 5,000 cases. That’s largely what informed her new policy, which will now require that a charging decision on each incoming case be made within five business days following its referral.

“The best way to interrupt crime happening on the streets today is by quickly and efficiently moving on the cases referred to us by the Seattle Police Department,” she said in a press release, crediting former U.S. Attorney Brian Moran as the one who recommended the shift.

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Moran started working with the Seattle City Attorney’s Office in January to “assist the criminal division to identify process improvements and develop a plan to address the backlog.” His hope is that this new policy will help slow the growth of the case backlog, and further facilitate efforts to clear the 5,000 cases waiting for review.

“This recommendation was the first to come out of his work,” Davison’s office detailed. “He will continue to develop additional recommendations to shrink the backlog in the Criminal Division and identify further areas of improvement.”

Davison won the city attorney’s post in 2021, running on a platform of holding people accountable for “quality of life” crimes such as property damage, shoplifting, and others that were typically diverted under the previous administration.

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Seattle City Attorney tightens filing deadline for incoming cases to address growing backlog